The author, Mary B. Olsen, submitted this photo. She wrote, “I took this photo last year, but this year only the old maple tree stands.”

By Mary B. Olsen

Shell Lake

(Washburn County)

Very few parts are required to engineer the installation of a backyard swing. All you need is an old automobile tire, a strong rope and a sturdy branch of a tree. When I came to live in this house, there were in my yard two well-established maple trees.

Back on the farm when my children were growing up, we had an old-fashioned tire swing in the yard. Now that there were grandchildren, I wanted a swing for them when they came to visit. I had saved an old tire. I happened to have a length of rope of the type used for lifting hay bales into the hayloft of a barn. It was right for the job.

My two grandsons, Chris and Cody, came to visit. They were more than willing to climb one of the maple trees and tie the rope around a strong branch. They scrambled down. We tied on the tire and the swing was complete. They did some trial rides and found it working well. Other kids came from time to time and the swing was enjoyed by all.

It is hard to believe that was more than 16 years ago. Last spring, I checked the swing and noticed the branch on which the swing was tied had no leaves on it and looked like it was drying up. Those years of use for a swing had been cutting off the life of that strong branch. The tree was still standing tall and sending its little two-winged seeds into the air to fly far and wide. It looked just as well as the companion tree near it but the branch was not strong enough to support the tire swing. It had to come down. And it did. One of my grandchildren visiting came into the house and cried, “The swing is gone!” I told him, sadly, its branch had fallen down.

Every summer the swing was there for the kids. It was an institution. When we had a picnic in the yard, the boys enjoyed swinging and straddled the tire. They could twist it around and around and then let it twirl them back. The girls perched with their legs inside the tire, like one sits on a board swing, and they liked someone to push them higher and higher. The parents were called to push their child. The older kids pushed the smaller ones. There was a lot of laughter and even a bit of squabbling and crying over someone hogging the swing. You might say that swing was a way of learning how to get along with others. With supervision, everyone took turns to enjoy the swing.

As a child growing up, we had a swing in our backyard that was only two ropes and a board seat set up by our dad. Later, when there were grandchildren, my parents had a set of swings with a baby swing and the usual board swing on chains. It was similar to the kind found in public parks.

Years ago there were tire swings in almost every backyard where there was a tree. In this area, when we came here, there was a house on every 40 where children were part of a family farm. Over the years, the farms became larger and schools were consolidated. The country schools in rural areas near my hometown had swings and playground equipment, while the public school in town did not. I wished they had swings at our school in town. Things change, but the desire kids have to get on a swing and soar into the sky still remains.

I remember the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson called “The Swing.”

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh! I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do.

Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

Rivers and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roofs so brown--

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!